If the Portland Trail Blazers are going to entertain any thoughts about competing in the Western Conference, they will need to figure out a way to defend home court. The Trail Blazers aim for their first home win in over a month when they host the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
A 93-91 setback against San Antonio on Wednesday was the fifth straight loss at the Moda Center for Portland, which is the only NBA team currently positioned in a playoff spot with a losing record at home (7-9). “It’s unfortunate,” guard CJ McCollum told the media. “We’re playing as hard as we can, coaches are giving us the game plan, we’re executing to the best of our abilities. Ball’s just not going in the basket.” The Nuggets lost two in a row and also suffered a home defeat their last time out by dropping a 112-104 decision against Minnesota. Leading scorer Gary Harris (elbow) and backup point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle) both missed the game and are considered day-to-day.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Altitude (Denver), NBCSN Northwest (Portland)
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (16-15): Star center Nikola Jokic had 22 points and six rebounds against Minnesota but hurt his team with a career-high 10 turnovers. “The turnovers have been a recurring nightmare all season,” coach Michael Malone told reporters of his team, which entered Thursday with the seventh-highest average in the league in that category with 15.3 per game. Jamal Murray helped make up for the lean backcourt with 30 points and he is averaging 22.2 while making 52.9 percent of his 3-point tries over his last five games.
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (16-15): Portland may have survived an injury scare when star guard Damian Lillard was able to return from a quad contusion in the third quarter against the Spurs, although he was impacted by the pain down the stretch. “If I could move, I’m sure you guys know I would have been a lot more aggressive and I would have been a lot more hands-on with the end of that game, but I did what I could,” he told reporters. Lillard finished with 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting and McCollum missed his first 11 shots en route to a 5-for-22 effort.
1. Denver lost 10 of its last 13 on the road.
2. Nuggets C Mason Plumlee is averaging 9.3 rebounds over a six-game span, nearly four more than his average for the season.
3. McCollum scored at least 20 points in six of his last eight games against Denver.
PREDICTION: Trail Blazers 108, Nuggets 104